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Apprenticeships and new talent are ‘critical’ to solving Yorkshire manufacturing’s skills gap

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Staff shortages and supply chain disruption were singled out as the two biggest challenges faced by Leeds’ 1,800 manufacturing businesses at an in-person event to launch the 2022 Leeds Manufacturing Festival this week, attended by over 70 employers, training providers and young people.

Speaking at the event, held at Leeds City College’s flagship Printworks Campus, Andrew Wright, non-executive chairman of Leeds textiles firm AW Hainsworth, LEP board member and deputy chair of West Yorkshire Combined Authority Business Economy & Innovation Committee, said: “West Yorkshire is among the best places to work in the world, and as a region we have a reputation for manufacturing high-value products that require highly skilled people to make them. The shortage of skilled staff and the problems in the supply chain, however, are major obstacles to be overcome, which is why attracting new talent into the industry is so crucial.”

Mr Wright said that a significant increase in the number of young people taking up manufacturing and engineering apprenticeships was needed in order to address these challenges as well as to boost productivity, especially by connecting systems and further digitalisation, and to meet Leeds City Region’s 2038 carbon neutral target.

Now in its fifth year, the Leeds Manufacturing Festival showcases apprenticeships and other career opportunities on offer for young people within the manufacturing and engineering sectors. Over the coming months the 2022 festival will feature a series events, including a manufacturing careers showcase hosted by Leeds City College, careers fairs in schools, online careers panels, virtual work experience sessions and visits to some of Leeds’ leading manufacturing firms.

Manufacturing employers will also be represented at the Leeds Apprenticeship Recruitment Fair at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on 7 February as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

Jack Harris, a 23-year old apprentice at Leeds Welding Company, attending the launch event, said: “I went into my apprenticeship inspired by my grandad who had worked at the Vickers factory, making tanks. The apprenticeship has been diverse and I have learned so many skills since joining Leeds Welding after A’levels.

Leeds Welding Company apprentice, Jack Harris

“Opting for an apprenticeship rather than university has given me hands-on learning that’s provided paid employment and enabled me to discover the areas of the business such as logistics that I’m most interested in. If you’re practically, rather than academically minded, an apprenticeship is a great option and manufacturing has so many different specialisms within it.”

Tracey Dawson, managing director of Daletech Electronics and chair of this year’s festival, said: “The festival is a fantastic window on to the manufacturing sector in Leeds and we’re urging students to come and find out from people who are already working in it about the careers that are available and the skills and qualifications that will best equip them for the great jobs that are out there.”

Schools, manufacturing businesses and students can find out more about Leeds Manufacturing Festival and get involved at the festoval website.

The festival is supported by sponsors Leeds City College, specialist recruiter for the manufacturing and engineering sectors E3 Recruitment and accountancy firm Saffery Champness. It is organised by the Leeds Manufacturing Alliance and supported by Leeds City Council, Leeds City Region LEP, Leeds Chamber and the Ahead Partnership.

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